Born in Pakistan, Ms. Shahzia Sikander is an internationally active and acclaimed artist, representative of South Asia. By making full use of the latest digital technology in the world of miniature painting, which follows conventions dating back to the Mughal Empire, she has brought new life and contemporary significance to traditional art forms, and has pioneered an innovative mode of artistic expression. The way she has pioneered new artistic expressions has made her a role model for female artists in South Asia, and she continues to pave the way for future younger generations to follow.
Ms. Sikander was born in 1969 in Lahore, the ancient capital of the Mughal Empire. After studying the court traditions of miniature painting at the National College of Arts in Lahore, she continued her studies in the US and received an MA at the Rhode Island School of Design. There she learned contemporary modes of artistic expression, and began to confront contemporary themes. She then lived in different countries around the world such as Pakistan, Berlin and Laos, engaging in local issues in each location. In recent years, she has been based in New York, where she has continued her dynamic work.
In the 1990s, she began exhibiting her work at major art galleries in New York, including at the 1997 Whitney Biennial. More art galleries across the US, such as the Hirschhorn Museum (1999), hosted her solo exhibitions. The way that she reflected contemporary issues in works based on traditional miniaturist forms and techniques, and the metaphorical meanings in which her rich narrative productions were suffused, earned her recognition across a wider sphere. In the 2000s, she broke new ground by applying digital technology to the world of miniatures in cinematic works such as animated videos, and had a succession of solo exhibitions worldwide including at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (2007) and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (2015). She was also invited to exhibit her work at many modern art museums in Europe, Asia and Middle East, including at the Venice Biennale (2011, 2015) and Istanbul Biennial (2013). In recognition of the steady stream of her artistic productivity and the originality of her creative world of expression and the diverse cultures it encompasses, she received the Commendation Award, Mayor's Office, City of New York in 2003 and Tamgha-e-imtiaz, the National Medal of Honor, Government of Pakistan in 2005, growing her international reputation. She also made a name for herself in Japan, when her work was displayed at the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale 2009 and in the "Transformation" exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (2010).
Ms. Sikander has overcome the difficulties of being a Muslim woman under the Pakistani military regime. The miniaturist painting to which she has devoted herself was dismissed as a traditional craft in terminal decline and merely a souvenir industry, but she has transformed it into a means of portraying modern social problems, namely the various divisions caused by political, ethnic, religious, gender and migration issues, and the hope for their resolution. Combining miniature art with modern techniques such as videos and digital animation, she has created a rich 'neo-miniature' world. Other South Asian miniature artists, many of whom are women, are following her path and developing a new world of creative expression.
Basing herself firmly on South Asian traditions while also reinvigorating them, Ms. Sikander has metaphorically depicted the grave problems facing the world through contemporary forms. Her distinctive world of creative expression is internationally appraised, and many young Asian artists have been inspired to emulate her. For such ambitious work as a representative female artist of South Asia, Ms. Shahzia Sikander is truly worthy of the Arts and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Prize.